Online tools

How to decipher online nursing home comparison

jholleman@thestate.comSeptember 1, 2013 

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MICHAEL HOGUE — MCT

The choice of a nursing home for an elderly family member often comes down to location, affordability and overall feel of the place when you make a visit.

But there are plenty of other important factors that can be easily tracked – size, staffing, state inspection ratings and quality of care. The federal government has an easy-to-navigate web comparison tool to help with those choices at www.medicare.gov/nursing homecompare/search.html.

You can find out how many residents live in a nursing facility, ratio of staff to residents and the ratio of health care workers to residents.

All of the health inspection reports for each facility are included. You’ll find even the highest rated homes have violations. Pay attention to the “level of harm” and “residents affected” columns. When those are high, your concerns should rise.

A separate entry lists fines paid. You might be surprised to see pages and pages of deficiencies found during inspection but no fines. Very few facility operators allow their problems to fester to the point where they are fined.

A wide range of quality measures are listed – from the percent of residents suffering serious falls to percent losing weight to percent given flu vaccines. Other columns provide comparisons to state and national averages.

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